“Fair” Trials for Terrorists Threaten Americans

Abu Anas al-Libi, suspected Al-Qaeda leader, was grabbed in a military raid in Libya on Oct. 5. He’s due to stand trial as an accused civilian criminal in a Manhattan Federal Court, where he has been under indictment for more than a decade on charges he helped plan and conduct surveillance for the bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, in which 212 people were killed and over 4,000 wounded, including 12 Americans KIA.
When, as an Army Reservist I was activated for duty in 2002, 2003 and 2004, my military orders included the phrase “in support of the Global War on Terror,” and mentioned the atrocities on 9/11/01. Our history of prosecuting war criminals from our first war, through the Civil War and WWII, have been clear and simple, and for over 100 years supported by international law (Geneva Conventions) and our operative version of Geneva, called The Law of Land Warfare, or the modern Army Field Manual 27-10 (http://armypubs.army.mil/doctrine/DR_pubs/dr_a/pdf/fm27_10.pdf). These documents give guidance and regulation to how we treat enemy Prisoners of War (lawful combatants and protected persons), and are clear about not giving legal privileges and protections to those who do not follow the law (unlawful combatants). These documents inform repeatedly that those found in violation of the law can be “prosecuted” and then “executed.”
The Geneva Conventions were written in part to protect innocent civilians in time of war, not to protect those who PRETEND to be civilians in order to MURDER them. It’s not that the Taliban and al Qaeda can’t afford uniforms of their own, one of the requirements in lawful conflict, it’s that they don’t want you to see them coming, and want us to believe they are merely innocent goat herders. It’s as if they want to be able to run onto the ball field from the stands at any time, murder an opposing player, and then disappear back into the crowd. And when security comes to take them away they say “it wasn’t me!” They lawyer up, play the system, and then go back to killing Americans.
Human Rights First (http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/USLS-Fact-Sheet-Courts.pdf) brags that “Federal civilian criminal courts have convicted nearly 500 individuals on terrorism-related charges since 9/11.” And that “Federal prisons hold more than 300 individuals convicted of terrorism-related offenses.” But they don’t mention what happened to the other nearly 200 convicted terrorists! Can we assume they are free on American soil? If prosecuted and then convicted, could al-Libi be set free someday on Main Street U.S.A.?
At least the over 600 Gitmo detainees who’ve been released so far are not suspected of being on our shores, but the over 28% combined recidivism rate amongst these released Gitmo detainees (http://www.lawfareblog.com/2013/09/september-2013-guantanamo-recidivism-report-from-dni/) is no comfort, especially to the loved ones of those killed in the Benghazi attack (led by former Guantanamo Bay detainee Sufian bin Qumu), which left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
When I was deployed to Guantanamo Bay in early February 2002, just months after 9/11/01, my Army Reserve enemy prisoner of war liaison detachment was prepared to participate in military tribunals to determine the status of Gitmo detainees fresh off of planes from Afghanistan, where most of the first detainees had participated in a deadly but failed prison uprising which claimed the first American life in our retaliation for 9/11, CIA operative Johnny Michael Spann. Instead, the principle of “lawfare,” or the exploitation of the American justice system by detainees, their lawyers, sympathizers and apologists in order to manipulate American political will (which also caused disruption of U.S. military detention operations), took hold.
Today, the Military Commissions Act of 2009, the current legal policies governing the prosecution of accused war criminals in the Global War on Terror, affords unlawful combatant Islamist detainees virtually the SAME RIGHTS as you or I would enjoy were we in a Federal Court of Law (http://www.mc.mil/ABOUTUS/LegalSystemComparison.aspx). Even though the Geneva Conventions and Law of Land Warfare, created to protect innocent civilians during war, offer NO extra-legal privileges for those who break the law.
The Obama administration has taken the disposition of Global War on Terror suspected war criminals to an absurd level, not only allowing them to remain in the stadium, but giving them luxury boxes and rain-check tickets for a repeat performance, and are continuing to put American lives at risk by bringing the latest and greatest al Qaeda suspect to U.S. shores, when he should be at Gitmo receiving a professional interrogation from our best and brightest.
Urban myths about the treatment of Gitmo detainees are now vernacular, especially amongst the “low information” crowd who rarely dig deeper than their news feed sound bites provide, but the truth is that although over 600+ Guantanamo Bay detainees have been released, none have been executed, beheaded, hacked to death, blown up or dragged naked and lifeless through the streets. In contrast, the only U.S. prisoner held by Taliban or al Qaeda believed not to have had his head slowly removed from his body by a long jihadi knife, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, missing since June, 2009, remains a mystery. Where are Amnesty International, the ACLU and other so-called “human rights” organizations on Sgt. Bergdahl? Why won’t the mainstream media or Barack Hussein Obama even show his face or demand his release?
I know from my 22 years as a military member and over 9 years of service as an Army officer with an enemy prisoner of war liaison detachment, the best way to obtain valuable information from enemy suspects is to convince them that unless they cooperate they will remain in detention. Which, according to the Geneva Conventions is legal. Even lawful combatant POWs may be held, without charge, “until the end of hostilities.” This is not “indefinite detention,” as some would complain; no more indefinite than a baseball game in extra innings. In theory, the game could go on endlessly, but it never does, and neither would unlawful combatant detainees be held “forever.” We need to redouble our efforts to take away our enemy’s means and will to fight and kill us. Until then, the finest military detention facility in the world is ready, willing and able to take care of and provide opportunities for unlawful combatants to help end the Global War on Terror.

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Releasing The Enemy Won’t Help Win Our Struggle Against Islamists

There has been criticism of the military medical staff at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, over the ordered release earlier this month of Ibrahim Idris, a native of Sudan who has been held as an unlawful combatant at Gitmo for over 11 years.

Idris was captured with al Qaeda fighters in 2001. Shortly after arriving at Guantanamo in 2002, he was diagnosed by a U.S. Army psychiatrist as being schizophrenic. Islamist apologists are seizing on this gesture of humanitarian compassion and practical military efficiency by saying Idris should have been medically released soon after his diagnosis.

What the al Qaeda fighter’s apologists and sympathizers don’t realize is that two entities must recommend release of a detainee who may be suffering from a medical condition which may render him less of a threat to repeat his aggression against the United States, one is the medical command (not just at Gitmo, but at the highest levels of the U.S. Army Medical Department (AMEDD)), and the other is the intelligence command.

Back in 2002, when I was serving at Guantanamo Bay as the ranking AMEDD officer with the Joint Detainee Operations Group (JDOG), Joint Task Force (JTF) 160, I was selected to participate in the very first repatriation of a Gitmo detainee, an Uzbek Afghani national named Abdul Razeq.

We nicknamed Razeq “Wild Bill,” due to his bizarre behavior in Camp X-Ray, where he would take bites out of his flip-flops, hang objects from his genitals, and generally cause frequent verbal disruptions. Eventually, the military medical staff diagnosed Razeq as schizophrenic, but, by his own admission to me, during a long break in his release journey to the Leeward airport at Guantanamo, Razeq offered another source for his symptoms.

Razeq admitted to being a heroin addict who had picked up an AK-47 in the fall of 2001 for the Taliban in order to sustain his habit. Some of the bizarre behavior, as it turned out, was due to his violent withdrawal from his heroin addiction.

But this behavior and diagnosis alone were not sufficient to get him a trip back to Afghanistan. He had to be declared not only a low risk of returning to the enemy, but also had to be determined not to be of any further intelligence value. Lastly, even if these two criteria are established, the country from which the detainee originated, or his national country of origin, must be able and willing to take him back.

The Sudan, in Idris’ case, was not a stable enough place in the past for him to be returned to, and still may not be. The Geneva Conventions stipulate that even lawful combatant Prisoners of War (POWs) may be held without charge, “until the end of hostilities.” During WWII the U.S. held over 400,000 German and Italian lawful combatant POWs without one call for extra legal privileges for them, or for medical releases back to their countries of origin. Even now, with a combined 28.9% recidivism rate (reported by the Director of National Intelligence, September 2013 http://www.lawfareblog.com/2013/09/september-2013-guantanamo-recidivism-report-from-dni/) of confirmed and suspected recidivists amongst released Gitmo detainees, it may not be wise to release any of the Gitmo detainees who aren’t facing war crimes charges in the Military Commissions there.

How much more blood on his hands will it take before the domestic threat of Islamist terror hits home for Barack Hussein Obama (Boston, Ft. Hood, 13 defeated terror plots on Manhattan alone)? How many more recidivists (Abu Sufian bin Qumu, alleged mastermind of the Benghazi jihadi attack, and former Gitmo detainee) will it take before he realizes we are in a war with Islamists who want us all dead and not in a game of “Capture the Flag?”

Idris may be harmless now, and I appreciate why he was released, but why take that chance while the Global War on Terror (GWOT) still rages? This fantasy that Islamist terrorists should be treated like common criminals and then arbitrarily released is literally killing us, and feeding the flames of Arab uprisings and civil wars (Egypt, Syria, et. al.).

Giving up the high ground in the GWOT by abandoning Iraq, in the face of overwhelming success of keeping the peace by keeping troops in the countries we liberated and defeated in WWII, was perhaps the President’s most myopic and deadly foreign policy blunder to date, which has grown from ripples of internal Middle East strife, into a tsunami of destabilization in the region today.

Today, we have troops in over 70 countries in our struggle with Islamists who want to kill us, including Germany, Japan and Italy, countries we defeated in WWII and who are now world economic leaders, peaceful, and prosperous because we stayed, economically and militarily. Leaving Afghanistan would seal the fate of that region to the Iranians, Taliban and al Qaeda, just like throwing Iraq to those wolves has done.

When will we learn from our past in a way that teaches every new generation that the only way to truly defeat an enemy is to take away the means and will for them to fight? Sun Tzu, author of “The Art of War,” said, “100 victories in 100 battles is not the most skillful, subduing the enemy’s military without battle is the most skillful.” We cannot hope to influence the enemy “without battle” if we are not willing to remain close enough to him to do so. And we certainly can’t hope to do that by releasing more than 600 from our military detention facility, only to meet them again on the battlefield and on our streets. “Until the end of hostilities,” is soon enough for me.

Wounded Warriors and Obama Care

What is The Best Way to Honor Those Who Have Fallen?

“Take care of those who came home,” is the answer given by Dr. Chrisanne Gordon, founder and chairwoman of the Resurrecting Lives Foundation (http://resurrectinglives.org/index.html), and physical and rehabilitation physician. Who could disagree with making sure veterans, our most noble of citizens, who write a blank check to every man, woman and child in America for their lives, are cared for when they make it home alive?

Michelle Obama, in her “Open Letter to Veterans,” published on September 30, states that, “If you are a veteran who is uninsured and hasn’t applied for VA coverage, you may be eligible for [Obama] care through the VA.” Yet the VA states if you have non-service related ailments or injuries, you don’t qualify for free coverage with the VA, fees and co-pays would apply.

The HealthCare.gov website Mrs. Obama recommends veterans go to stipulates that veterans who are enrolled in the VA system are considered “covered” and therefore do not qualify for care under the new health care law. Similarly, veterans who may be enrolled in Tri-Care, the military health care system, do not qualify to use the new Health Insurance Marketplace.

It’s no secret that “there are an estimated 1.3 million uninsured veterans,” according to Mrs. Obama’s letter, but what apparently is a secret are the estimated 400,000 veterans suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), which is a leading cause of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which can lead to myriad social, physical, mental and emotional health complications, including suicide, which claims the lives of 22 veterans every day according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, based on the agency’s own data and numbers reported by 21 states from 1999 through 2011; that’s one veteran every 65 minutes.

Mrs. Obama omits even mentioning these two devastating conditions for veterans, their families and loved ones. The VA backlog and ill equipped and trained VA service providers barely make a dent in helping those afflicted with TBI and PTSD.

Dr. Gordon, on her website, states that, “It is estimated that only 36% of the veterans returning from the Iraq & Afghanistan wars actually receive treatment through the Veterans Administration, although all are eligible.” That’s 792,000 out of 2.2 million returning veterans.

How will the Affordable Care Act provide relief for veterans if the VA can’t do it? How can Obama Care hope to even scratch the surface of treating ailments the government already can’t get out of its own way on?

The HealthCare.gov website claims that if a veteran can’t afford private health care coverage they “may be eligible for Medicaid.” The website also says that “if you’re a veteran who isn’t enrolled in VA benefits or other veteran’s health coverage, you can get coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace.” But is the Marketplace ready for these special needs patients? And if they are, can the veteran not enrolled in VA health care afford it?

“Getting coverage,” means “paying” for coverage through the Obama Care Marketplace. Why would a veteran, who qualifies for VA coverage, not go to the VA? It doesn’t make sense. It’s as if Michelle Obama is trying to get “caring for veterans” points with a health care merry-go-round that will deposit the veteran exactly where s/he got on!

Veterans need to be directed to the VA, and then some hand-held into signing up. Medicaid should cover the non-service related costs should the poor veteran not be able to afford these costs, but because last year the Supreme Court ruled it would be up to the States to decide whether or not to implement Medicaid expansion, an estimated 284,000 poor veterans who would have qualified for Medicaid under the expansion will not be able to access it. Obama care has NOTHING for the veteran, nor should it. But why the smoke and mirrors towards those who already are faced with a daunting bureaucratic labyrinth and well deserved mistrust of the efficiency of a government program?

There are those, like Dr. Gordon, who are dedicated to helping veterans with no strings attached or fairy tale promises. On Sunday, November 10th, from 7:00 – 10:00 p.m., the Military Channel (http://homewardboundtelethon.org/) cable television station is hosting a telethon supporting veterans with PTSD and TBI. Bonnie-Jill Laflin, sportscaster and the only female scout in the NBA, is founder of Hounds and Heroes (http://houndsandheroes.com/who-we-are/), a national nonprofit dedicated to lift the spirits and morale of our active, wounded, and veteran military troops worldwide. Concerned Veterans for America (http://concernedveteransforamerica.org/), led by Pete Hegseth, a decorated Army veteran, recently lobbied Congress to force the VA to improve the quantity of processed service related veteran health care applications. Dr. Gordon’s Resurrecting Lives Foundation is a non-political 501(c)(3) charitable organization that uses 100% of its donations for veteran’s services directly related to its mission.

It’s a shame that in this age of returning veterans with complex health care issues we can’t find a better way to address their needs than with just a confusing “open letter” to them about something that can do nothing for them.

What we need is to allow veterans to seek out treatment at any municipal health care facility, just like Medicaid patients can do. Restricting care for veterans only through the ridiculous bottleneck of Veterans Administration facilities, which are inaccessible to most veterans who tend to live far from these facilities, for an estimated 400,000 suffering the effects of service-related TBI alone, is trite, myopic, unnecessary and a dishonor to their sacrifice.